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The Launch of the Institute for Central Asian Studies

Written by Matthew Durkin – Volunteer at ACAA

On Wednesday 21st February representatives of the ACAA attended the launch of the King’s College London Institute for Central Asian Studies (ICAS). The Institute is a student society at Kings that was founded by ACAA volunteer Darius Nasimi as a platform for debate and study of Central Asian politics, culture and history. Despite this region of the world representing some of the most fascinating and geo-politically important countries, the ICAS is the only student society in London dedicated to Central Asia.

The evening began with an inspiring speech from Darius Nasimi in which he told of his own personal motivations for starting the society. This included the harrowing story of his family’s journey to the UK when Darius was just five-months-old, in which they spent eight hours in a refrigerated container at temperatures close to freezing. Darius went on to talk about the advancements Afghanistan has made since 2001 and how it was important to highlight these positive changes but to not overlook the challenges the country continues to face.

The ICAS will work to raise the profile of not just the issues faced by Central Asia, but also the potential for opportunity and growth. This will be done by engaging with embassies and those who have a stake in seeing Central Asia flourish. Furthermore, we aim to suggest policy changes and foster opportunities that could increase regional cooperation and help develop this geo-politically crucial part of the world.

There were many special guests in attendance, such as,  Erlan Idrissov, the Kazakh Ambassador to the UK, Matt Anderson, from Australia, who was Deputy High Commissioner to the UK and Former Ambassador to Afghanistan, Raffaello Pantucci, the Director of International Security Studies at RUSI, Mr Hanif Ahmadzai, a Political Counsellor at the Afghan Embassy in London, Mr Behruz Emomov, an Attaché and Counselor at Tajik Embassy and Dr. Nooralhaq Nasimi the founder and director of the ACAA.

Topics discussed included Kazakhstan’s work on the Security Council with raising issues affecting Central Asia, as well as thoughts on how the conflict in Afghanistan must be solved for the future of international cooperation in the region. Raffaello Pantucci in particular gave an excellent speech on how Central Asia mirrors global disputes, practices and developments. Whether it is the democratisation, or lack thereof, of former Soviet states, the battle for influence and control between Russia, China and the US or the increasing trade links between East and West; all play out on a micro scale in Central Asia. The evening closed with a Q&A session before a networking opportunity with the embassy representatives and members of the media.

To summarise the night, the ICAS inaugural event was a huge success and hopefully this event was a barometer of the success the ICAS will encounter in their mission. We at the ACAA wish ICAS President and founder, Darius, and his new society the best of luck and look forward to working with them in the future to advocate for the people of Central Asia.

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